CHAMPCAR/CART: Houston Saturday's Review

MONTOYA'S SERIES-LEADING SEVENTH POLE AT TEXACO GRAND PRIX OF HOUSTON TIES CART ROOKIE RECORD HOUSTON (September 25, 1999) - Rookie Juan Montoya of Target/Chip Ganassi Racing equaled a CART rookie record for pole...

MONTOYA'S SERIES-LEADING SEVENTH POLE AT TEXACO GRAND PRIX OF HOUSTON TIES CART ROOKIE RECORD

HOUSTON (September 25, 1999) - Rookie Juan Montoya of Target/Chip Ganassi Racing equaled a CART rookie record for pole positions Saturday as he grabbed his FedEx Championship Series-leading seventh in record fashion for the Texaco Grand Prix of Houston (4 p.m. ET Sunday, live, ABC-TV).

Montoya's (Target Honda Reynard) lap of 93.651 mph (58.699 seconds) on the 1.527-mile temporary street circuit established a new track record for the second-year event and allowed him to tie the CART rookie record of seven poles in a season established by Nigel Mansell in 1993.

In addition, Montoya earned a PPG Cup point for the pole, extending his championship lead over second-place Dario Franchitti (KOOL Honda Reynard) to 200-171 heading into Sunday's 18th of 20 rounds in the championship. Montoya, currently with a 29-point cushion, needs a 44-point advantage at the conclusion of the Texaco Grand Prix of Houston to clinch the championship.

Bryan Herta (Shell Ford Reynard) earned the outside pole with a lap of 93.037 mph (59.086 seconds). It marks his second consecutive front-row start, following his pole at Laguna Seca two weeks ago.

Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard) will start third following a lap of 93.006 mph (59.106 seconds). It marks his fourth top-three start in the last six events.

Rounding out the top five qualifiers were Franchitti (KOOL Honda Reynard), fourth at 92.891 mph (59.179 seconds), and Max Papis (Miller Lite Ford Reynard), fifth at 92.871 mph (59.192 seconds).

The top eight drivers were separated by less than one second and top 20 were separated by fewer than two.

WHAT THEY'RE SAYING

JUAN MONTOYA, Target Honda Reynard: "I think we had a good day. This morning, the car felt pretty good, even from yesterday. In the afternoon, [Adrian] Fernandez put up his time and everybody started shooting for that. I put on my second set of tires and gave it a good go. The car was good, it wasn't perfect, but we tried to improve it every time we came into the pits. [On tying the CART rookie record of seven pole positions in a season] At this time, I don't think it means much. Maybe in 10 or 20 years time it will mean more and I'll think, 'Oh, that's good.' Right now, I'm just trying to win the championship."

BRYAN HERTA, Shell Ford Reynard: "It was a really funky session, at least from my standpoint. Every time I started to get a lap, somebody else would have a problem. I was actually yelling at Bobby [Rahal, team owner] on the radio, just to try to release some frustration. Right at the end, I finally got a good clear lap and put one in. I'm very happy. I just as easily could have been seventh or eighth."

PAUL TRACY, KOOL Honda Reynard: "It [his qualifying lap] was just being on the track at the right time. Being in the second group, we didn't get the rain that was coming. For awhile, we were second, then Bryan got us on the last lap. I'm very happy with how we've done and how the team has done, and I'm looking forward to tomorrow."

WHAT'S NOTEWORTHY

* Of Juan Montoya's (Target Honda Reynard) CART rookie record-tying seven pole positions, four have come on temporary street circuits. In addition to Houston, the others came at Cleveland, Detroit and Vancouver. Montoya's remaining three poles came at Nazareth, Gateway and Portland.

* With the PPG Cup point he collected for winning the pole, Montoya became the sixth driver in FedEx Championship Series history to reach the 200-point mark for a season since the current scoring system was implemented in 1983. Montoya attained the milestone in his 18th start of the season, joining, Alex Zanardi who scored 285 points in 19 starts last year; Al Unser Jr., who scored 225 in 16 starts in 1994; Michael Andretti and Bobby Rahal, who scored 234 and 200 points, respectively, in 1991 and Unser Jr., who scored 210 in 1990.

* Montoya's pole was the 12th of the season for Honda, tying its personal best in CART that was established in 1996. It also marked the 16th for Firestone.

* Bryan Herta (Shell Ford Reynard) will make his third front-row start of the season, including an outside pole at Mid-Ohio in addition to his pole at Laguna Seca.

* Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard) will make his fourth top-three start in the last six events, including second at Detroit and third at Mid-Ohio and Vancouver.

* The top seven qualifiers represented seven different countries including Colombia (Montoya), the United States (Herta), Canada (Tracy), Scotland (Dario Franchitti), Italy (Max Papis), Brazil (Gil de Ferran) and Japan (Naoki Hattori), respectively. Hattori's start is a career best. * CART President and Chief Executive Officer Andrew Craig announced Saturday that, as further evidence of its commitment to a "Ladder System" of driver development, CART will conduct a pair of special post-season tests for year 2000 champions in both the PPG-Dayton Indy Lights championship and KOOL/Toyota Atlantic championship. The 2000 Indy Lights champion will be awarded a full test in a CART Champ Car while the Atlantic champ will receive a test in an Indy Lights Lola T97/20. The Atlantic champion will also be awarded a free Indy Lights engine lease - a $48,000 value - if that driver contests the full PPG-Dayton Indy Lights Championship season the year following his winning KOOL/Toyota Atlantic campaign. Both tests will be funded by CART. Craig: "We are committed to fully enhancing the CART Ladder System, and this includes introducing several advantage programs to complement what aspiring drivers learn in PPG-Dayton Indy Lights championship and KOOL/Toyota Atlantic championship races. These tests will allow future champions from our development series to literally see what the next step is like, while adding more value to the overall benefits of racing in both Lights and Atlantics."

* Charlene Bernat, an 11-year-old from Wyandotte, Mich. is attending this weekend's Texaco Grand Prix of Houston, along with her father, Steve, as the winner of the inaugural CART/Toyota PPG Kids Coloring Contest. The contest invited children up to age 14 to color a schematic of a Toyota Solara, with the winning design, as voted on by a panel of judges, being featured on the pace car this weekend. Charlene's other weekend activities included several press interviews; lunch on Friday with Robby Gordon (Johns Manville/Panasonic/Menards Toyota Eagle) and the entire Team Gordon team; Saturday lunch with rookie Cristiano da Matta (MCI WorldCom Toyota Reynard) and Scott Pruett (Pioneer/MCI WorldCom Toyota Reynard); a track tour and a Sunday pace car ride.

WHAT'S ON TAP

"CART 2Day" will air 11 a.m. ET Sunday on ESPN2 while ABC-TV's live race broadcast begins 4 p.m. ET.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Robby Gordon , Al Unser Jr. , Gil de Ferran , Michael Andretti , Max Papis , Bobby Rahal , Paul Tracy , Dario Franchitti , Alex Zanardi , Bryan Herta , Nigel Mansell , Scott Pruett , Naoki Hattori , Chip Ganassi , Cristiano da Matta
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing